Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why is Donald Trump holding a Huffy?

Donald Trump may be a lot of things, but in 1989, he was the champion of US Cycling. In fact, he may have saved cycling in the US by creating the "Tour de Trump" bicycle race. 

After the conclusion of the 1988 Coors Classic, it was clear that Coors would not be returning as the title sponsor. They had decided to sponsor their own professional cycling team instead. This left Race Director Michael Aisner holding an empty bag. He had apparently been playing hardball with Coors, so they took their ball and went home. The prospects of finding another sponsor was next to nil and sadly, the race folded after 10 years. This left a huge void with no other professional stage race in the US.

Along comes Donald Trump and with the help of NBC Sports, Jefferson Pilot Teleproductions and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino- you have the makings of an over-the-top race. It was! The Tour de Trump  was originally envisioned as a Tour of America. The organizers quickly realized a smaller scale tour of the east coast was a good place to start. The race was filled with a who's who of cycling stars including: Greg LeMond, Davis Phinney and European riders like Eric Vanderaerden. A cold rainy day in Albany, NY brought the start of the race. Thomas Craven of Schwinn/Wheaties won the inaugural Prologue and as the race progressed, we could see the organizers had created a heck of an event. 

Fun things about the race I remember are: racing photographer friend Jim Safford up the stairs to the press room at The Plaza Hotel in our t-shirts and shorts, seeing Donald Trump and wondering what the deal was with that hair?! The final time trial in Atlantic City, NJ finishing on the boardwalk in front of the Trump Casino. Oh yeah, Michael Buffer the "Let's get ready to rumble" guy was the announcer in Atlantic City. My Mom and Dad (who both came from England) would giggle like school kids everytime I said Tour de Trump. You see in England, trump means to fart! 

The Tour de Trump lasted one more year, then it was adopted by the DuPont company after The Donald  hit financial hard times and could no longer afford to sponsor the event. 

Read more about the race here

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Iron War...The Battle of Mark and Dave

Ironman 1989 was my second year covering the event. My first year was spent in a press truck, this year I was given the opportunity to shoot the race from a motorcycle! In 1988, I had hoped to see Mark Allen and Dave Scott go head to head, but at the last minute Dave dropped out with knee problems. Mark had a poor showing that year due to bike problems- he finished a disappointing 5th overall.

Dave Scott and Mark Allen duel on the Queen K.

This year looked to be the year. Mark and Dave were in the shape of their lives and it seemed like we were going to see the equivalent of a WWF smack-down on the Lava. There was some pre-race trash talk going around and Mark had said he had made peace with the island gods- adding fuel to the fire.

I don't remember as much about the race as I should but that run is what I remember the most! Mark and Dave came out of bike to run transition only seconds apart. Soon they were running side by side and it continued for the next 24 miles. Two men running side by side for 24 miles? Crazy! I had to get to the finish line so I wasn't there when Mark pulled away from Dave with a mile and a half to go. He finished 58 seconds ahead of Dave- winning his first ever Ironman Triathlon World Championship in a course record time of 8:09:15.

Most have seen the iconic image taken by Lois Schwartz of Mark and Dave on the run. She had the best seat in the house- shooting from the lead vehicle (a Mustang convertible). When I finally came upon the scene of Mark and Dave, it was full of contrasts. Outside of the core group surrounding them was pure chaos. Officials were yelling at everyone, trying to keep a buffer zone around them.  I could not get a view to see what was happening. The ABC crew had a giant van that was on them like glue. I remember the guy in the van had a camera on a pole he was using. Anyway, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I was allowed into the circle. Once I got next to Mark and Dave it was deadly silent. The only sounds were of shoes slapping the pavement and two guys breathing hard. I was astounded at the peacefulness of the situation and the fact the two could be so close and yet each in their own world. They never glanced at one another or said a word!

Mark and Dave running side by side
about Mile 20.
I took a few images, but soon I was told to move on. I wanted more. It was obvious I wasn't going to make it into  the circle again, so I headed up the road, got off the bike and put my fisheye lens on my Olympus OM4T. As they approached, I held the camera low and tried to grab something of the two as I ran beside them for 15 seconds letting the motor drive blaze. Geez those guys were running FAST! This is the image I like best. I don't think it has ever been published, but I like it. I remember them both giving me funny looks at some point, then they were gone! What an amazing pace! Mark ran a 2:40:04 marathon- absolutely remarkable.

It was a total surprise at the finish to see Mark win. He broke down in tears, overcome with emotion. When Dave crossed moments later, you could see he was devastated. Unfortunately, someone had to come in second. Since the Iron War, Mark and Dave have told their versions of the story. Today it remains one of the greatest stories in all of competitive sport. I was happy to be able to see it first hand!

Mark Allen wins his first Ironman World
Championship in 1989.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On the brink...the Paula Newby Fraser collapse of 1995.

The Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii is one of the toughest Ironman courses there are. The relentless heat and humidity combined with the incredible beauty of the island makes it a perfect choice for the world championship. The lava has sucked the life out of many a competitor. Even the professionals walk a tightrope of hydration vs. pacing. Sometimes it works-sometimes it doesn't. This is about when things go terribly wrong...

It was 1995 and all was going well for multiple Ironman World Championship Winner and course record holder Paula Newby-Fraser. Paula had amassed a sizable lead against Karen Smyers on the bike and her run was going well.

Around mile 20, she got word that Karen was gaining 30 seconds/mile on her and it is possible that Karen could catch her. Paula panicked and decided to abandon her hydration and nutrition plan and simply put the pedal to the metal. It looked like her plan would work- except for one thing she didn't expect. She was overheating and quickly becoming dehydrated.

I was on the motorcycle covering the race and the last time I saw Paula- about mile 15, she looked fine. That is why I headed to the finishline to get into position to capture yet another win for Paula. We could hear Mike Reilly say "She's on Alii Drive!" and we all waited, but no Paula! The next thing I know, Karen Smyers makes her way to the finish tape- winning her first and only Ironman World Championship.

"Where's Paula?" you could here rumbling through the crowd. Karen looked concerned and pointed up the street. Someone whispered in my ear that Paula had collapsed up the street. I bolted up Alii with all my gear banging around and my fanny pack slipping down. About 300 yards up the street was a crowd surrounding Paula. She had collapsed and was disoriented. All she could say was "Don't touch me. I don't want to be disqualified.". Her boyfriend Paul Huddle was there and he was trying to call an ambulance. Paula looked like she was dying. She was white as a sheet.

People kept telling me to get out of the way, but I stood my ground and said "This is my job. I know her and I am not in the way.". I stood off to the side and did not interfere with the situation at all. It was determined that Paula was suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. When Paula skipped her water and energy drink, she took a risk and came so close to winning, not today. Now she is laying on the ground and she is literally cooking on the inside. They give her some water, but it's not enough. Her body temperature is too high and she needs to cool off NOW! She could suffer irreparable damage to her brain or other parts of the body.

A smart thinking course referee ran to a local restaurant and filled a giant mayonnaise bucket with cold water. Here is the picture. He poured the bucket over her head and it was like he was pouring liquid life back into Paula. It was amazing! Her color began to come back and she began to speak coherently. After another 5 or 10 minutes she was on her feet and to the delight of the crowd, she walked barefoot to the finish line- remarkably in 4th place!

Paula would later remark that she made a mistake by not sticking to her plan. It was like skipping that last gas station when your car is running on empty. Unfortunately, she ran out of gas just shy of the finish. It wasn't easy to see the Ironman champ sitting there on the ground, but I am glad she was okay and I was able to capture this incredible moment in sports history.

Paula came back in 1996 to regain her crown- lesson learned.